• France, 1736
  • Oil on canvas
  • Inv. 431
  • Signed and dated: N. de Largillierre/1736

Portrait of Thomas Germain and His Wife

Nicolas de Largillierre

This canvas represents the goldsmith Thomas Germain (1673–1748) inside his workshop at the Louvre with Anne-Denise Gauchelet, his wife. The ‘Prince of Rocaille’, as he became known, was appointed sculpteur-orfèvre du Roi in 1723, a position identified in the inscription in the letter on top of the table: ‘À Monsieur/Monsieur Germain/Orfèvre du Roy/aux galleries du Louvre/à Paris’. This commonly designated ‘official portrait of the artist’, realistic in style, preserves the sense of splendour usually associated with the French style of that period.

Some of the objects represented in the composition may be related to known works by the artist, while others, like the large ewer on the table with its serpent-shaped handle, remain unidentified. Thomas Germain (master 1720) proudly points to a candelabrum with satyrs on its shaft. This model would result in a series of identical pieces delivered in Lisbon in 1757 for the court of King Joseph I of Portugal, which were sent by his son François-Thomas Germain (1726–1791). Also on the shelf is a terracotta cherub that is similar to the edges of the terrines supplied by François-Thomas to the Portuguese and Russian courts. On the opposite side, a base of cherubs around a wax trunk may be a variant of the said candelabra. A gesso sphinx finally attests to the goldsmith’s interest in Egyptology, fashionable at the time.

Odiot Collection; Duke of Decazes Collection; Georges Sortais Collection. Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian through Agnew, London, 1 December 1903.

H. 146 cm; W. 113 cm

Paris 2003

Nicolas de Largilliere. 1656-1746, Peintre du Grand Siècle, exhibition catalogue. Paris: Musée Jacquemart-André, 2003, no. 55, p. 166–7.

Sampaio 2009

Luísa Sampaio, Painting in the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Lisbon/Milan: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum/Skira, 2009, p. 76–7, cat. 28.

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